Re: Galatians 1:15

From: Carl William Conrad (
Date: Fri Jan 23 1998 - 11:36:57 EST

On Fri, 23 Jan 1998, Jim West wrote:

> At 08:39 AM 1/23/98 -0800, you wrote:
> >Help, please, from anyone with a commentary on Galatians 1:15
> >
> >"who separated me out of my mother's womb"
> >
> >Is this a Hebrew (or Greek) idiom?
> It is a Hebrew idiom, based on the call of Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1). Paul here
> imitates the call of Jeremiah and applies the same kind of call to himself!

I don't dispute that this is a deliberate imitation of the passage in
Jeremiah--it very clearly is. But I think that AFORIZW here does not mean,
even in this context, "separate from the womb," but rather "set apart,"
"delimit," "set apart for a purpose." BAGD indicates both senses but
refers this second sense to Gal 1:15. Moreover, although the passage
imitates Jeremiah, I don't think there's any Hebrew idiom here at all.
AFORIZW, as one can see in LSJ, is one of those curious Greek APO-
compounds where the prefix seems to indicate not removal but focus,
zeroing in on an object (e.g. APOBLEPW, "look closely at").

Furthermore EK KOILIAS MHTROS MOU does not mean "out of my mother's womb"
but "from before I was born." Classical Greek has no dearth of expressions
indicating some originating point of one's holding some particular status
or quality: EK PAIDOS, "from childhood," EK NEOTHTOS, "from youth," EK
GENETHS, "from birth." (LSJ s.v. EK II.2.)

> >I.e., does it just mean either: a)
> >from the time I was still within my mother's womb or b) from the time I
> >was born? Or is it non-idiomatic, i.e., does the preposition EK ("out
> >of") have a special sense for Paul here, i.e., he separated me "out
> >of/out from" my mother's womb/took me out of my human existence/realm
> >(see Galatians 4:4 GENOMENON EK GUNAIKOS with reference to Jesus having
> >a human birth)? I opt for the simple idiomatic meaning, but a friend
> >said he's read something where the author was giving it this more
> >spiritual or mystical interpretation.
> >
> Your friend is wrong. Again, see the call of Jeremiah, which Paul here
> intentionally applies to his own situation.

I agree with Jim here; the expression is ordinary and there's no reason to
attribute any unusual sense to it.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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